Slow going for first salmon opener at Copper River

Media hoopla runs high for the first fresh fish but prices plummet at retail.

by | May 15, 2023

Filed Under Markets | Salmon | Uncategorized

Pre-order retail prices plummet from 2022

Alaska Airlines pilot delivers a 55 pound Chinook salmon from Copper River to SeaTac (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Alaska’s 2023 salmon fishery officially got underway today/May 15 with a 12-hour opener starting at 7am at the famed Copper River near Cordova.

Reports from the grounds said it was slow going with cold temperatures and frigid waters keeping the salmon away from the nets of several hundred drift netters.

“I’m not seeing or hearing anyone catching fish,” longtime fisherman Peter Hoepfner told Intrafish

The first shipments of the first fresh fish of the season is scheduled to arrive at 7am on Tuesday  at the Alaska Air Cargo Warehouse at Sea/Tac Aiport in Seattle. From there it will be delivered to eager restaurateurs and upscale grocers who will get top dollar for the prized sockeyes and king salmon.

Prices for pre-orders are way down at retail

Pre-orders of fresh Copper River Chinook salmon at Pike Place Market in Seattle, for example, were said to be “brisk” with retail prices for fillets starting at $78.50 per pound. Fresh sockeye fillets were being offered at $68.50 per pound.

That compares to pre-order prices in 2022 at $129.99 per pound for Chinook and $74.98 per pound for sockeyes.

Pike Place pre-orders of whole sockeyes start at $52.50 per pound and $54.50 for whole Chinook.

That compares to pre-orders last year of a whopping $899.99 for a whole Copper River king and $199.95 for a whole sockeye at Pike Place Market.

At Copper River Seafoods in Anchorage, pre-order prices were down by $20 from last year. Two eight ounce portions of king salmon are now being offered at $69 and pre-orders for two eight ounce portions of sockeyes are priced at $29.99.

No word yet on grounds prices being offered to Copper River fishermen. Last year, starting prices were reported at $11.50/lb for sockeye salmon and $16.50/lb for kings.

Managers predict a commercial sockeye catch this year at Copper River of 987,000 fish; no forecast is set for Chinook.

Prices will tumble following the hoopla surrounding the start at Copper River as other salmon fisheries open across Alaska throughout the summer and into the fall.

State managers are predicting a total Alaska commercial salmon catch for 2023 of nearly 190 million fish, mostly due to an increase in pink salmon.

That is a 16% increase from the 163 million salmon taken in 2022 which had a dockside value of over $720 million.

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About Laine

Laine Welch has covered the Alaska fish beat for print and radio since 1988. She also has worked “behind the counter” at retail and wholesale seafood companies in Kodiak and on Cape Cod.


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